Smoky coal from NI delivered ‘unchallenged’ to homes in smokeless zones, Dáil told

TD demands ‘major clamp-down’ on cross-Border sales and ‘illegal advertising’

A demand has been made for a “major clamp-down” on the cross-Border sale of solid fuels and on “appalling” illegal advertising as annual deaths from air pollution reach 1,300 in the State.

Fine Gael TD Fergus O'Dowd hit out at local authorities who have responsibility for enforcing air pollution regulations, but who "huff and puff and do nothing about these deaths".

The Louth TD said he had evidence that “smoky bitumous coal is being delivered unchallenged and unregulated by Northern Ireland couriers into homes in the South in smokeless zone areas”.

And he said that national publications were illegally advertising these cross-Border sales, where carbon tax was not being paid.


He also criticised the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission and said “they’re doing nothing” about the false and misleading advertising. They were suggesting that complainants could go to the Circuit Court or High Court to seek an order to prohibit illegal advertising, he said.

Mr O’Dowd said “nobody is doing anything about it” and that authorities were effectively “turning a blind eye”.

He demanded “a much more aggressive regional approach” and that local authorities should work with Revenue and agencies “to make sure this stops”.

During a Dáil debate on the Government’s Climate Action Plan, Mr O’Dowd highlighted the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report ‘Air Quality in Ireland’ which estimated 1,300 deaths every year because of pollutants from solid fuel for home heating.

He believed that about 9,100 people have direct as a direct result of air pollution from fossil fuels since 2015 when air pollution regulations were introduced but he said that since 2015 until 2019 there had only been six prosecutions for breaches of the regulations.

The Government backbencher, using Dáil privilege also claimed that “nationally known publications like the Farmers’ Journal, like, like” were publishing advertisements from companies “supplying and guaranteeing delivery to anywhere in Ireland of Colombian coal at €360 a tonne”.

“It breaches the regulations regarding smokeless fuel in urban areas and it cannot possibly be delivered at €360 a tonne unless they’re avoiding carbon tax. This illegal and unacceptable importation.”

The Revenue Commissioners he said, “have sadly no power to stop any cross-Border transport or movement of goods such as coal”.

He also said every air sampling point across the country fails air pollution requirements.

“We do not meet any of the World Health Organisation (WHO) standards because our European standards are brought in by the coal producing countries,” who use their influence on the EU.

“We should insist on WHO standards which are 50 per cent more rigorous than current EU standards.”

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times